Every family has their culinary Christmas traditions; the classic chocolate roll cake Buche de Noel, warm and fragrant mulled wine, spiced pfeffernusse cookies white with powdered sugar, crunchy, sweet Baklava, and savory morsels of Swedish meatballs. Often passed down from generations, these treasured recipes are a glimpse into the food-ways, or cultural role that food plays in our lives.
Food historians trace the Christmas pudding, “Figgie” pudding or plum pudding to 16th century England. A luxury for many families, this darkly colored, dense dessert was not truly prepared with plums (the generic term for dried fruits), but with currants, raisins, apples, dates, figs, candied lemon, orange or pineapple. Often made weeks in advance of Christmas, the pudding’s rich flavor, often enhanced and preserved with brandy or rum, matures over time. Decadent and rich, the pudding is served with a hard sauce of butter, cream and sugar.
Our family’s recipe for Plum Pudding continues to evolve through eleven generations of descendants from the Crockets of Norway, Maine. Usually concocted with the dried fruits, nuts and contents of almost empty jam jars on hand, it was steamed in 1-pound coffee cans by my Grandmother Nonie, until my mother (Grammie Ro), assumed the culinary matriarch role. I was a new and enthusiastic foodie at the time, and together we started a collection of vintage pudding molds.
The day after Thanksgiving, the latest generation of clan assembled at our family homestead to create this years’ batch of plum puddings. Cleaning and chopping suet, dicing fruit, souring milk, zesting oranges, greasing and decorating molds, and steaming puddings was a joyful family adventure; a defining moment in passing the culinary torch.
Food and its surrounding family traditions are vital to our lives. Food is love. This year, embrace your family’s food traditions, spend more time in the kitchen, and please send me the recipes!
GRAMMIE RO’S PLUM PUDDING
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup finely chopped suet
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
- 4 cups total chopped dried & candied fruits (currants, raisins, cranberries, plums, dates, pineapple, prunes, figs)
- Red & green candied cherries to decorate the top of pudding
- 2 tablespoons total grated orange and / or lemon peel
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup soured milk
- 2 eggs
- In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and molasses. Trim the suet and chop into fine pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.
- Coarsely chop the nuts and add them to the bowl.
- Finely grate the lemon and orange peel and add to the bowl.
- Add the sugar, flour, baking soda, and dried fruits to the mixing bowl.
- To prepare the sour milk, measure 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar into the bottom of a 1-cup measure. Add milk for a total of one-cup fluids. Add the soured milk to the bowl. Add the eggs and mix well.
- Grease three 2-cup molds. Decorate the bottom of the molds with sliced red and green cherries.
- Divide the pudding mixture between the three molds. Cover the molds with the lids.
- Set the plum puddings on a rack in a large pot. Add about 3 inches of boiling water to the pot and steam the puddings until set, about 2.5 - 3 hours. Remove the puddings from the water to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Remove the lid, invert the mold, and shake the pudding from the mold. Allow to cool completely. Wrap the pudding tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- To serve: steam the pudding until warm. Slice and top with sauce. Each pudding makes about 10 servings.
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups cream
1-teaspoon vanilla extract (to taste)